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Youth4Health: A Case Study in Health Navigation

March 20, 2011

Two weeks ago Andrea Yip (@andrealyip), social media coordinator at Youth4Health (@youth4health), asked me if the #hcsmca community would be interested in discussing youth and health navigation. Her request came at the same time @shebamuturi posted a link to a series in the Vancouver Sun about patient navigation in the Canada. Initial tweets have shown that there is a great interest in discussing youth and health navigation, so I asked Andrea to prepare this case study about the Youth4Health project to set the stage for our discussion March 24th.

By Andrea Yip

Youth from recent immigrant families often act as bridges between their households and the wider community. Not only are they frequently the first to become familiar with the new local culture, they often have more resources within their reach, including greater command over the English language, new technologies and social media.

Youth4Health is a community-based research project that trained newcomer youth to become “health navigators”. Youth Health Navigators (YHNs) help their families and friends find and access quality health services and supports across Ontario. The goal of Youth4Health is to create youth leadership networks that help build healthy and supportive environments, especially for people new to Canada.

To make this happen, Youth4Health worked together with partners across Ontario to develop health navigation training programs for young people in important health topics like mental health, food security and cancer survivorship. Project partners included: FindHelp/211 Ontario,, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the ELLICSR program at Princess Margaret Hospital and the YMCA of Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo. Our nearly 100 YHNs followed the Identify, Sensitize and Connect training model:

  1. Identify involves getting to know local health issues, resources and services in a community. YHNs learned about these issues by taking photos in the community, interviewing social service and health providers, doing research and making short movies.
  2. Sensitize is about understanding and talking to people to help them overcome any fears, insecurities or lack of knowledge about resources and services they might have. YHNs practiced this by leading peer-to-peer workshops on health navigation and by connecting online through social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.
  3. Connect means helping others get information about relevant health resources and services such as websites or telephone numbers to programs like Kids Help Phone and 211 Ontario.


YHNs also helped create tools for, a website that teaches other youth about health issues and health navigation through short videos and documentaries, an interactive trivia game and other resources.


Community action

Community partnerships were critical to the project. Building on the strengths, credibility and visibility of partners enabled a sustainable model of youth engagement. YHNs consistently reported that their experiences and direct actions in the community, such as site visits, interactions with cancer patients, presentations to peers, etc., were the most meaningful. This demonstrates the critical importance of having real-life experiences to contextualize ‘classroom’ learning.


Cultural and local contexts should be considered when training youth on health navigation. In addition to sharing information in language appropriate for this group, it is important to take into account the barriers related to health and other issues that newcomer youth face and how these barriers might impact their ability to apply health navigation skills.

Social media

Equipping YHNs with the skills and technology to create media-based projects was essential to the project. iPhones and laptops facilitated their blogging, multimedia creation (photos and videos) and access to social media platforms as a space for reflection and dialogue.


On Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 9PM ET, join Youth Health Navigators in an #hcsmca chat focused on health navigation, as we explore an answer to the question:

How can young people help others navigate & access quality healthcare services and supports?

  • What is “health navigation”?
  • What are the boundaries of a youth health navigator?
  • How can health providers & organizations integrate “youth health navigation” into their practice?

YHNs will share their experiences as youth health navigators and the different health navigation activities they were involved in with Youth4Health. We welcome everyone, including service providers, public health professionals, youth workers and supporters, and young people themselves to join in the chat!

YHN from Youth4Health joining the conversation include:

Navigator Project Focus Twitter Handle
Abdi Mental Health @Hansen3rd
Abie Food Security & Social Media @abiequayson
Hanan ELLICSR (cancer support) @hkulmiye
Tommy UofT Campus @tomstu17
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2011 4:12 pm

    Excellent concept since new-comer youth are easily marginalized and can be hard to reach. So sorry to miss this conversation but will read the transcript eagerly.



  1. 2.0: Tweet Chatting with #hcsmca Founder, Colleen Young | The Public Health Studio

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